Happy New Year!
Admittedly, this is a certain amount of haze on the brain this morning. We rang in the New Year in style last night and the last beers for a good long while were drank. I managed to make it count. Now my liver can regenerate and find peace again.
This year I am going to add a new wrinkle to the blog. Each day I will pick a record I have listened to (probably a lot) and write about it. I’m going to add in as much detail as I can for each record post, but not always about the record itself. Some days it might be a story of how I found the record or something it reminds me of when I hear it.
The goal is 365 records in 365 days. When I am finished, I’ll have a book length piece about music I love and why I love it. At least the first draft.
So here goes and this one will probably not be a surprise to those who know me well…
I remember being at my Uncle Dennis and Aunt Kathy’s house in 1982 and seeing the music video for Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio” on MTV. I was immediately hooked. Every time I got the chance to see the video, I was pretty darn elated. Then later that year, I saw them on Urgh! A Music War and heard “Back In Flesh.”
I really wanted to buy a 7” of “Mexican Radio” but never got around to it for some reason. While visiting my grandparents in Colorado Springs for Thanksgiving in 1983, I found a cassette copy of Call Of The West at a little record store off a nice little square near Colorado College. I wore that tape out.
Literally. I had to steal another copy a few years later from Tower Records at Christown because my first copy was squealing. I love every second of Call Of The West. There is not a song I skip past or am bummed when it comes on.
Very few lyricists tell a story as well as Stan Ridgway. I tried to interview him years ago when LA Weekly was letting me to a series of interviews with accomplished musicians from the LA scene. He politely declined but maybe one of these days he’ll say yes. I’d really like to pick his brain about how the lyrics come to him.
For years I would subtly try to get people to listen to the record. Usually, people get very distracted by “Mexican Radio,” which is a great song, but they tend to miss out on the other gems on the record. I’ve gotten less subtle lately about singing the praises of Call Of The West. Hence my post today.
Wall of Voodoo were really hitting tough subject matter from an interesting perspective. The lyrical content on the record is an attack on loneliness and derision and self-doubt. It’s about taking chances and failing but there is often a glimmer of hope, too. It is really hard to be so stark, yet so descriptive. I wonder if Ridgway has ever thought about writing a book? I bet it would be great.
Musically, I love how the band plays with the space in each song. There are little bits of keyboard and harmonica and odd percussion seemingly strewn throughout the compositions, but each part has its own perfect place. If you listen to “Look at Their Way,” for example, there are these small touches that just lift the song to a different level and soften the blow of some pretty disgusting imagery in the lyrics.
Give Wall of Voodoo’s Call Of The West a listen.
See you tomorrow.
Last night, we had some chocolate fondue. We dipped these lovely things into the chocolate and it was delicious. It is also the world's simplest banana bread recipe. You literally can't fuck it up.